An email last week (thanks, Lesley) prompted me to think for the first time about book groups reading my books, either as a whole trilogy or just one of the three. I know that the library service in Cumbria has sets of each of the books for loan for this purpose, and I meet people who have read my books with their group, but I didn’t realise that this sometimes entailed using pre-written questions.
I’ve had a go at creating several questions, in the hope that they might engender some interesting discussion. They seem a bit vague and generic, and I’m sure readers can think of better ones for themselves, but here goes. There are four for each book, and three more that apply to the whole trilogy, which could be adapted for any of the books. Some of the questions for an individual book could be applied for the others too. Mix and match.
I would really love to hear these discussions myself!
A Good Liar
1. How are the characters of Jessie and John introduced to the reader? What do you initially feel about them? Do they develop as the story proceeds, and in what ways?
2. What do you make of Jessie’s affair with Andrew? What does it show about her character, and his?
3. Which passages from the book did you particularly enjoy, or not, and why?
4. This was the author’s first novel: what feedback or advice would you offer her for the future?
1. How is life in a mining community conveyed? Did you find it convincing?
2. Jessie’s independence is threatened in various ways during this story. How does she deal with these developments, and how do you feel about the choices she makes?
3. Do you believe that Maggie genuinely loves John, or is she attracted by what he can offer her?
4. How does the relationship between Jessie and Agnes develop? (This is especially interesting if you’ve witnessed it from the beginning in A Good Liar). What do you think about Agnes’ motives and behaviour?
1. How is the character of Lawrence Finer introduced? Do you find him convincing, and what does he add to the story?
2. Do the technical details in this book about the Windscale reactor and the 1957 fire interest you? What could the author have done to improve this aspect of the story?
3. Some of the characters, e.g. Tom Tuohy, were real people working at Windscale in 1957. How does the author weave together fact and fiction. Does it work?
4. The ending of the book, and of the whole trilogy, is left open-ended. Is this satisfying? How would you have liked the book to end?
Between the Mountains and the Sea: the trilogy as a whole
1. Three different communities and decades are explored during the trilogy: what sense did you get of time and place in each of them? Were they convincing and interesting?
2. Does the dialogue contribute to your understanding of the characters? What did you like or dislike about the approach to dialogue?
3. What issues does an author have to consider when writing a trilogy? How has the author dealt with some of these issues?
If you find these questions useful, or have some better ones, let me know. And if you actually use them for a book group discussion, I’d love to know that too, and anything of the feedback or interesting insights that resulted. The next book Cruel Tide, due out in November 2015 is a crime story, and I think the questions might be a bit different.